How to Make $200 an Hour as a Drone Photographer

Alex   Harris

I’m an aerial photographer. I charge $200 an hour, so I’m about to show you how and why I can charge that much and how you can do it too, which I know is a bold claim.

In this article I am going to walk you through all the steps from a marketing and promotion perspective how to make this drone photography business work for you. However, the truth is that most of the money I’ve made from drones and aerial photography hasn’t been from being paid directly to fly and shoot even though I do both.  My business has gotten so big, so quick that I now have a staff of pro drone flyers and what I am going to share with you works to promote any B2B service you want to market. Even something as dull as being a carrot farmer.

Even if you don’t want to be paid $200 an hour as a drone photographer, you can literally be a carrot farmer and what I am going to share with you will help you create clients.

So, let me explain. If you’re new to aerial photography, I’m going to give you a pretty broad layout of the terrain right now. Like most businesses, there are a lot of people fighting over scraps at the very bottom and a few people making a lot of money on the very top.

The reason is because so many people buy a drone like it’s a toy and they have a lot of fun with it but they’re just taking some photos for some money and treating it as a hobby and not as a business.

Many have lousy drones that take lousy pictures, but honestly we are in the early stages of this industry most clients don’t know good from bad. They’re not photographers, they are hobbyists.

All professional photographers start out as hobbyists so I am not saying that is necessarily a bad thing. They just like having a drone, they don’t know what to and not to do to really make money with their drone, which is the reason for this article.

First of all, you are probably wondering who is this dude writing this article? I’m technically an award-winning aerial photographer as of like a couple of weeks ago. I live in Phoenix, Arizona. There’s great Mexican food, lots of rocks. However, I try to make those rocks work & really put some life into them. So, if I can do this out in the dirt, then I’m pretty sure he can do this anywhere you may live.

I’m a videographer as well. And I filmed and edited for networks like Discovery, Health, Fox Sports, and companies like Intel, Nike. So why do I care that you learn how to use your drone to make money? Because I can help you, I am one of the few people that  can provide you a real drone business plan, and help you start and profit with a drone photography business.

What is so special about drone photography? It is new and trending. Drone Photography is an easily appreciated type of photography by everyone. Even if for customers that are not into drones and maybe even a little freaked out by them.

People enjoy seeing drone photos shot from the sky of their city because not everybody can do it. It’s still really new and trendy. The cameras have improved dramatically over the past couple of months. Drone photographers are becoming the new cool kids.

Today when you’re just driving home on the highway and you see a nice pink sunset, you’re going to want to see it later on. If there are drone photographers seeing what you are seeing, your probably will on their Instagram. It’s just as easy to take a unique one of a kind drone photo as it is to shoot a picture with your smartphone, if you have a good drone, a few seconds of extra time, and a little practice.

How Can You Make Money and Get Paid as a Drone Photographer?

This is the problem that almost every drone photographer faces. Managing time to drum up some business because you want to actually pursue this seriously, but how are you going to do that?

There are some really great approaches that everybody’s going to tell you online and that is just email people. Just contact marketing agencies, post photos on the web online, and then you will not believe how fast the money comes. You’re going to be sitting there one morning and just bricks of money are going to pelt you in the face after they smashed through your window and woke you up. It’s unbelievable. Like everything, those selling you drone business courses want to make it sound easier than it is, but let’s just use some common sense.

Investing in a high quality drone with a great camera was one of the best business decisions I have ever made. Yes I invested nearly $2,000 but after only my first 4 gigs, which I had lined up before I received my drone, I had it paid for.  Since then it has been $200 and hour pure profit.

There are more people entering this market all the time. Many videographers and photographers contact me telling me how she wants to further her passion. It falls on deaf ears because I get a hundred of them a day and I don’t care. Everybody is asking for contacts and work and let you know who they are and they’re trying to come to you, meet your clients and steal them. So how much do you stand out when you show up and you try and give something instead of taking from established drone photographers like me?

Here’s what I do that works really well:

  1. First of all, figure out how to make a sweet Panorama, seriously. This one single trick is the only thing you really need to know how to do well.
  2. Once you’ve practiced and gotten good at it, you’re going to take three or four of the landmark locations in town, like pretty scenery with a nice sunset or crazy clouds. Anything that anybody in your city would wildly enjoy just because they see it all the time.
  3. Then go to Google maps and make a giant list of marketing companies in your town better yet, if you could make a list of PR, they get less traffic and less solicitors than marketing companies, but they have a huge demand for work too and they work more directly with bigger clients, like huge companies.
  4. Take your photos that you made, put a watermark on them with your website. This is more important than your name. There are a ton of other SEO reasons to do that for backlinks and why I ranked number one in my city, but that’s for a different time.

The point is do good work, and then let others know about it!

Put all your photos & video footage online somewhere that you can share them and people can discover you and your services. Imager.Com is a really good place to house photos and it’s really easy to share them after that. Potential customers will see them naturally in an email to these marketing companies and PR agencies type up the subject, hey, I have a bunch of sweet drone panoramas of scenic spots in town. You guys can give away to your clients if you want or you can just use them away on your website or wherever.

This is going to get most of the right people to at least open your email because they’ll be curious and they’ll see that you’re giving them something for free. So, what’s the harm?

And you are providing them value because every marketing agency has to constantly license stock photos and it’s hard to find photos of their own town. Their only choice is to go take them or have to find somebody that doesn’t suck in town and they’d have to pay a photographer and hourly rate otherwise and wait around for the turnaround.

So, when you show up and you already have them ready to go and they look nice, they’re going to be super jazzed. You need to understand something, even if you only get a single response from them that says, thank you, or they will keep you in mind.

You are miles ahead of any other people who want to get into the drone photography business who  are just calling and begging for work.

The point is there’s a million things you can do when you’re in that position with them. Later on, when one of their clients sees it and they ask, who took this photo? Did you guys take it? They’re probably going to say, no, this guy took it and then you’re meeting new clients because of the referral.

You might get a call, or they are going to visit your website? Which does better when somebody is manually typing in your name and your website to find you and Google notices that. It’s called giving out a freebie and It can work really, really well. Most drone photographers are into learning how to take pictures and operate their drone. However they are stingy when it comes to building their business and giving out samples of their work.

NY City Mavic Pro 2 Shot

You can create a word-of-mouth buzz effortlessly, people will share your photos with their friends on social media if they are good and catch their attention.  With the right drone and camera you can take photos and create videos that are like a work of art edited in Adobe lightroom with mask and brushes and colored wells. They really make people want to drink in the image when they come across it. And if, that sounds like it takes a massive amount of technical and artistic skill. it really doesn’t. actually.  However that is why most people who could become drone photographers don’t.

Most people don’t take that first step & buy a quality drone, because they think it sounds scary and they don’t know enough, but they don’t realize that just because drone flying and photography is new and trending, doesn’t mean it is difficult to learn.  I have given you the drone business plan in this article.

I am sitting on the other end of the fear telling you it doesn’t take long to learn. It’s not hard at all, but most people aren’t going to try it and that’s why it can be to your benefit. The action takers are the money makers.

Make sure the pictures you release to the public are great because these are your portfolio. So anywhere people can see them will create clients. Every photo can easily turn into a person who is calling to license the photo or just asking for more info and yes, licensing people asked to pay for my photos that I’ve already shot all every day.  Think about making money from photos I shot a couple of years ago. The residual income from developing my drone photography skills was something I had not expected.

These photos have to be shot raw. They’ve got to be edited and colored. Remember the more photos you can take of the most popular places in your local community, the better.


To finish up this article, I want to speak to those of you that maybe don’t want to fly for money directly. If you don’t want to be a photographer. I have really good news for you. I said before, this can work really well even if you’re doing something as boring as selling carrots. Yes, literally selling carrots. So, let’s say you are a carrot farmer and you’re posting photos of your awesome carrots on Instagram every day or somewhere online to get a following.

That’s going to be a really slow following because there’s probably like 10 to 12 other people in the entire world who have such a passion for carrots. You are  really, in the slow lane, if you are a carrot farmer and you want to market or advertise, you’d have to pay a newspaper or radio or something local that has a lot of eyeballs or ears on it to get your name and info into the market.

You have to save up all that money to pay a channel with attention to the market on it. So think about how different your approach would be if you could take your own photos to become your own marketing channel after getting 5,000 followers in your city because you post fantastic drone photos all the time of sunsets and places around town, and they know that you’re the channel with the really rad stuff that everybody can enjoy easily and once a week you slide in a promotion for your carrot farm.

So, you say half off carrots this week, remember I am the carrot guy that happens to have a drone or you’re posting photos of your farm where you’re pulling carrots out the ground. The point is you will have thousands of followers. Once a week, you can slide your carrot promotion. That can be 5,000 or more people looking at your carrot promo in one day versus 200 people or whatever low number you’re following was before you started sharing your local drone photography.

Let’s face it, 7 days a week or carrot farming activities can get fairly boring, fairly quickly to most people. Most social media followers can get sick of it because they’re always looking at your bad carrot. photos, no offense.

You are not alone! Every small business owner should understand the power of what I am sharing. Many businesses are as unexciting as picking carrots out the ground, in fact most businesses are boring to most people.

If you’re one of the lucky ones that own a hotel or you do landscaping, rehab real estate, or anything visual, it’s a million times easier to tie in your product with nice photography. But you really should just stick to sunsets and local architecture if you have no other choice because sunsets and history never get old.

People go nuts over them. Bananas, I don’t know why. So once again, like we talked about earlier, giving out something to give instead of take is always a recipe for success. You could post these nice sunset photos and say, oh my gosh, look at this beautiful sunset from earlier, but there’s a nice rainbow, hey, if anybody wants this photo for a desktop background or just to use for whatever, email me and I can send these over to you for free to use however you want.

If this makes sense to you, look for a quality drone with a great camera like the Pro Mavic 2 which is my personal favorite.

Either way, you’re meeting people, you’re talking to them so you have some engagement with your followers and then you can build up an email list or potential customers and another list of those who have bought from you. Creating an email list has created more cash flow for me in the last year than most people could understand.  If you are in business there is nothing more valuable than keeping you products in front of customers and potential customers via email. The information HERE can help you get a customer email system in place for your drone business, carrot business or any other business. Complete this form and they will give you the scoop. This is the customer email delivery system I use.

Ready to grow your Drone business with email?

Get a glimpse of how sending emails with AWeber can help you connect with customers and grow your business when you sign up for our behind-the-scenes email series.

You have to learn how to effectively market your business. When you provide value to people locally they become a marketing channel where you can email them and say, hey, half off today for carrots, or you know, remember, here’s the nice drone photo of the week buy my carrots, or whatever service it is you do. It’s really easy to make friends and network when you’re bringing something nice to their life instead of trying to extract from people. I have heard it said “You keep that which you give away”.

Another important reason that email communication is so important is that even if they don’t buy your carrots this week, it’s a slow drip and you’re in the back of their mind. So, when they do need nice photos, one day photographer, drone guy, whatever, you don’t want them to think to immediately go to Google and look for somebody they don’t know and then scour through work for hours. You want them to remember you, and you will if you properly keep your brand in front of them.

You should be the name that they associate professional drone photography with in the back of their head. So, when they think of nice photos, I need a photo. Oh, it’s that girl online that I see every single day posting cool drone photos of landmarks around town. Your goal exists in the back of their mind so that when they do need it, they know exactly where to find you. That is so important. It took me such a long time to realize this, I was impatient when I started, today I have all the business I want.

I believe anyone can make $200 with a drone photography business if.

  1. You invest in a good drone with a great camera
  2. You practice how to use it
  3. You get your pictures and service known in your local community

Don’t buy a drone to make money if you are not willing and prepared to get your work out there for others to enjoy every day.

To learn more about Drone Photography you can follow Alex Harris on Youtube. As always your thoughts and feedback are appreciated.

According to Alex and many other professional drone photographers, the drone of choice today is the Pro Mavic. Sometimes you can find the Pro Mavic on Amazon for less than $2,000. Here are the current listings.

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